What is meant by ‘phasing out’ of Denmark’s Covid-19 vaccination programme?

The Danish Health Authority has said it has begun to plan "a winding down of the current vaccination program for all target groups".

A Danish Covid-19 vaccination centre in Aalborg, January 2021
A Danish Covid-19 vaccination centre in Aalborg, January 2021. The country has said it will "round off" its national vaccination programme. Photo: Henning Bagger/Ritzau Scanpix

The health authority said late last week it would bring the national vaccination programme to an end, citing the country’s high vaccine uptake and natural immunity, coupled with the third wave of the virus nearing an end and infections expected to subside with the change in seasons.

READ ALSO: Covid-19: Danish inpatient total continues increase but ICUs stable

The authority said the dates of the phase-out would be announced towards the end of February.

It also said in a statement released on February 12th that the current vaccination programme would be “rounded off” for all target groups.

Responding to questions from news wire AFP, it said on Monday that it was too early to provide details about what the phase-out would mean in practice and to what extent the vaccine would still be available to unvaccinated people in Denmark. 

However, the Danish Health Authority also said last week that it was not planning a fourth dose for additional population groups, nor a third dose for those under 18

Boosters will not be offered to under-18s because of high immunity in the group resulting from previous vaccination and infection with the coronavirus, the health authority said.

Young people and children are meanwhile at low risk of developing serious illness from infection with the Omicron Covid-19 variant, it said.

A fourth jab has been offered to vulnerable risk groups, with care home residents and persons over 85 next in line. But the latter groups will not be offered a fourth dose, the health authority confirmed.

Children aged 5-11 will – until any further announcement is made – continue to be offered vaccination against Covid-19 with a first and second dose. Vaccination of that age group was first recommended in November 2021.

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Denmark to offer all over-50s autumn Covid-19 vaccine

As many as 2.5 million residents of Denmark, almost half the country’s population, will be offered an new booster vaccination against Covid-19 this autumn.

Denmark to offer all over-50s autumn Covid-19 vaccine

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen presented on Wednesday the national plan for a potential new wave of the coronavirus this autumn and winter.

At a press briefing, Frederiksen said that nursing and care home residents, as well as everyone over the age of 50, would be offered Covid-19 vaccination this autumn.

People who live in care homes and others in vulnerable groups will be offered the vaccine from September 15th, with over-50s invited to be vaccinated from October 1st.

A new round of vaccination is part of a broader strategy to avoid shutting down parts of society due to national Covid-19 outbreaks, as seen in Denmark and the rest of the world in 2020 and 2021.

She said that vaccines were to thank for restrictions in winter 2021-22 being less severe than in the preceding year.

“The most important tool is still the vaccines. They showed their value last winter,” she said.

“But we also know that the protection given by vaccines fall off over time and that health authorities expect a new (Covid-19) wave,” she said.

READ ALSO: Covid-19: Omicron subvariant now dominant in Denmark

The director of the Danish Health Authority, Søren Brostrøm, said at the briefing that the decision to offer vaccination to over-50s was based on a “principle of caution”.

The World Health Authority has recommended offering vaccination to people over 60, Brostrøm said.

Danish residents under the age of 50 will be offered a vaccine if they are vulnerable or in risk groups for serious illness with Covid-19.

The vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer will be used in the Danish vaccination programme, as was the case in 2021.

Existing Covid-19 vaccines are known not to protect with high effectiveness against infection with the Omicron variant, but do reduce the severity of illness if it is contracted.

“One of the things we have learned with the new variants Omicron, ed.] is that the vaccines are not particularly good at preventing infection. We’ve learned something here,” Brostrøm said.

But their ability to reduce the severity of disease means that, by vaccinating a large part of the population, Denmark can avoid a “large wave of illness,” he said.